Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

A story about one of the women at whomadeyourpants?

Something happened today, in the maddening midst of all the ‘oh my god have we ordered packaging and labels who is writing the job description and how on earth do we do everything in the next ten days’ last minute run up to the launch that stopped me in my tracks and made me realise what my mad desire for pink pants is doing for the women I work with. And I felt humbled and proud and desperate and sad all at once.

One of the lovely women in the higher level group, the sewing class, turned up unexpectedly at the office today to ask me to help her. She hesitantly asked me if I would write her a letter, saying that she would soon have a job.  It transpired that she was applying for indefinite leave to remain and was scared that the Home Office ‘might not like’ her. She was scared she would have to leave her husband and this country where she has friends and family. I gladly wrote her a letter saying that I was glad she had been training towards a job with us and that I was looking forward to her having a job in whomadeyourpants? very soon. She has had 100% attendance at all her English and sewing lessons, and is bright, funny, modest, humble, kind – it’s an absolute privilege to know her.

I’m not sure why B is here, or why her husband is – I don’t ask unless the women want to tell me as I know that some of their stories are horrific. But what often happens is that husband comes to the UK first, he leaves his wife and family that he loves, because that is safer for him than staying where he is. Separated from them, he then ends up here, and after a while, applies for his wife and/or family to join him. Wives often come on a spousal visa, which is not a guaranteed right to stay, I guess in case of false marriages for immigration purposes.

I’m not sure where to start with how I feel about this. Until I started working on this, I thought I knew about how things were for refugees and asylum seekers, but what I, like I suspect a lot of people had forgotten, is that every story is about a real person. B is facing the very real possibility that she could be separated, again, from her husband. She has come hundreds of miles to a cold, wet country where she is sidelined and ignored, where she can’t get a job, where she lives in accommodation that she could be turned out of, where she is discriminated against – and this is so much better than where she was that she desperately wants to stay. Imagine how it would feel to be scared that you might be separated from your beloved with no hope of reunion, imagine someone coming to your house and physically taking you out, driving you to a detention centre, making you get on a plane. It happens.

I’m reluctant to pass comment on the state of immigration laws as that’s not my job but I will say that it is not the fault of any of the women I work with that they don’t have jobs. They desperately want work, but they just don’t get taken seriously. I work with ex headmistresses, surgeons, teachers, import/export businesswomen and they are immensely proud when they have a job cleaning, which so many people here look down on. Furthermore, I will say that in my very personal opinion, it’s bonkers that people who happened to be born on *this* bit of land have more rights than people born on *that* bit of land. We’re all the same, and to badly misquote Shami Chakrabati, we’re all equally valuable, and have equal rights, just because we are were born.

One thing I have learned through working with the amazing women I work with is that I had more prejudices than I realised, and I’m a pretty left liberal – I wasn’t sure how to talk to women in headscarves, wasn’t sure if I could say that our pants are ‘sexy’, wasn’t sure if certain words or subjects were out of bounds.  And I’ve learned that before anything else, before the scarf, the veil, the hijab or the prayers, the things I didn’t understand, these are women, first and foremost, just like me, they laugh, they joke, they are naughty and cheeky and they play and they tease. And it’s breaking my heart that one of them is worried she might have to be separated from the man she loves. I’m not supposed to get emotionally involved, I know, but this is important – this is why whomadeyourpants? has to work and has to do well. It can really make a difference.

I wish I could do more but I can’t, but I am glad I did what I could and I hope it helps. If my mad desire for pants can make a difference to real lives, well – can’t be bad, eh?

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2 Responses

  1. Noely Noel says:

    Wow. That’s quite humbling.

  2. Jeff says:

    Awesome, thanks for sharing that. Hairs on the back of my neck went up reading it. You really are a star!

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